Paddle Hopeville Pond in Griswold, CT

Hopeville Pond croppedWhen you’re looking for an easy paddle on a pretty pond, consider Hopeville Pond in Griswold, CT.

It’s a lovely, long and narrow pond formed when the Pachaug River was dammed.

Donn paddling Hopeville Pond croppedThe Pachaug was a major fishing ground for the Mohegan Indians, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection which manages Hopeville Pond State Park. “At low water the stone weirs, constructed by the Indians at angles from the river banks, are still visible,” according to the DEEP website. “These weirs directed water flow as well as eels, shad, and other fish toward the center of the stream where the Indians placed baskets to trap them. Until blocked up by a dam, constructed in 1828 at Greenville, shad passed up the Quinebaug River in great numbers.”

If you go, get there before the end of October when the park’s main gate will close. It will re-open in April. The large playing field near the entrance on Route 201 is open year around. To find it, set your GPS to 929 Hopeville Rd., Griswold, CT.

The boat launch has already closed, but you can launch easily at the swimming beach. The park also offers some delightful hiking. For a map, click here.

My dog Penny and I hiked there last week, and my brother Donn (pictured here) and I paddled there today. We plan to return frequently, and the next time, we will pack fishing rods.

 

Janet Coit: ‘What I did this summer’

Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, wrote these loving memories of her summer among her state’s natural wonders. The essay has appeared in The Providence Journal and the latest newsletter of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association. We’re pleased to share it here, too.

janet coitLast week, I bit into my first apple of the season, a fresh MacIntosh from Phantom Farm in Cumberland, and tasted the sweetness of September. As they have all summer, my senses felt acutely alive.

Showing off the tastes, smells, sights and sounds of beautiful Rhode Island to millions of residents and visitors is the work and pride of dedicated professionals at the Department of Environmental Management and organizations across the state. The special qualities of the experiences and places that we safeguard and steward provide tens of thousands of jobs across a variety of economic sectors.

When I think back on “what I did this summer,” here’s what comes to mind.

Kayaking down the Blackstone River, enjoying conversation with other paddlers, who also marvel at how the teeming, green corridor has rebounded from the pollution and stress associated with its industrial past.

Picking strawberries in the sun, my daughter’s fingers and lips stained red with juice, anticipating my favorite dessert — strawberry shortcake.

Climbing to the Fishermens’ Memorial at Camp Cronin on a lovely summer evening, paying respects to the people who have lost their lives at sea, and recalling the power of the surf the day I watched the waves toss boulders around that cove during Superstorm Sandy.

Fly-fishing (poorly) in the Narrow River, my heart pumping as I pulled in a small and feisty skipjack, and later, watching the sun drop behind the ridge lighting up the spartina in Pettaquamscutt Cove.

Attempting “geo-caching” for the first time in the woods of Arcadia (and deciding it is for those who are more techno-savvy).

Frying my first, homemade calamari, and enjoying the special texture and tang of squid harvested earlier that day from Narragansett Bay.

Pedaling down the East Bay Bike Path and seeing every kind of person — from a little girl in her patent leather shoes to a bald, buff, tattooed fisherman — taking in the view off the bridge over the Palmer River, as I ride to my destination at Colt State Park.

Crunching sweet kernels of fresh-picked corn purchased hours earlier from a farmer at his road-side stand, and swearing there is nothing better.

Shooting at a modern range in a beloved old club in Tiverton, excited to finally hit a bullseye.

Drinking Rhody Fresh milk at the “Great Outdoors Pursuit” event at Fort Adams State Park, while drinking in the sights of the kites and kids on the north lawn, surrounded by the breezy backdrop of Newport’s world-class sailing venue.

Spotting the bright-red bill of an oystercatcher at Napatree Point, and delighting in the diversity of birds that find sustenance where the shifting sands and eel-grass beds frame the edge of Little Narragansett Bay, and the Pawcatuck River meets the sea.

Slurping a raw oyster off its rough shell in Matunuck, appreciating the unique flavor, and knowing that, for thousands of years, others have enjoyed the same sensation.

Meeting friends in the gray light of dawn to motor out beneath the Mount Hope Bridge and catch some stripers — my friend’s daughter reeling in one big enough to take home for a delicious dinner.

Getting lost in the maze at the Clayhead Trail on Block Island’s northern bluffs on a hot day in July, and then cooling off with a therapeutic swim in the cold Atlantic.

Helping to measure and weigh the fish we hauled in as part of DEM’s regular trawl survey, and seeing firsthand what our fishermen know innately, that the diversity of life in our salty waters is a natural bounty that sustains us (and sometimes confounds us).

Laughing with sheer joy at the power of the waves that toss me on the sand as I boogie-board at the beach.

Joining family and friends in a towering natural amphitheater at Camp Yawgoog for my son’s Boy Scout ceremony.

Clambering up Pulpit Rock, wading through Nag’s Marsh, and taking in the panoramic view from the T-wharf on Prudence Island.

Watching an osprey scoop up a fish from Hundred Acre Cove out the window of my car during my daily commute.

Walking from the sandy to the rocky shore at Rocky Point, and daydreaming about the larger park that will open on that glorious stretch of coast.

Savoring steamers, fresh fluke and local tomatoes as part of a scrumptious dinner out.

Learning about the Native Americans, the colonial farmers, and the mysteries of those who lived near the Tomaquag River during a magical late-August hike in Hopkinton.

Spending a recent afternoon in Galilee, where an exciting fishing tournament and seafood festival celebrated commercial and recreational fishing at one of the most important ports in New England. The event did more than that; it brought people together.

We are fortunate in Rhode Island to have a vast diversity of beautiful places that support our economy and fill us with wonder. Our natural assets are there every season for all to enjoy. Get out there, enliven your senses, eat local, and discover beautiful Rhode Island!

It’s Walktober in The Last Green Valley

Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead

Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead

It’s Walktober, a celebration of The Last Green Valley, in southern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut, along the  Rhode Island border.

The 23rd edition of Walktober features scores of walks and paddle trips among natural wonders and important historical sites from Sturbridge, MA to Griswold, CT.

Sunday, we visited the Coventry CT Farmers Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead (pictured above), and walked around a bit through the rain. It was wet and muddy, but several children had a blast in the puddles. (And the farmers market was wonderful.)

Walktober includes 106 walks, hikes, paddles and bike rides as well as 36 events that highlight the cultural, historic or natural resources of The Last Green Valley.  The Walktober Calendar labels each walk as easy, moderate, or difficult. Many offerings are geared specifically for families with children. The family dog is welcome at pet-friendly walks. Adventurers will enjoy 13 paddles and three bike rides included in this year’s schedule. To download the schedule as a PDF file, click here.

Walktober is such a gift!

First day of fall is a beauty

Donn on Shaw Pond croppedThe first day of autumn dawned in rain in southern New England, but by noon, the rain clouds had disappeared. This afternoon is perfect for a hike or paddle beneath brilliant blue skies with a light breeze.

Tomaquag Trail first day of fallMy wife Marie and I headed for the Tomaquag Trail in Hopkinton RI (at right) with our Brittany, Penny. It was lovely, especially now that all of last winter’s storm damage has been cleared. Several stretches of the white-blazed trail are wide enough for two hikers to walk side by side. The trails are all flat and easy, but exposed roots make them inaccessible to wheelchairs or strollers. Click here for great guide to many of Rhode Island’s trails and paddling spots.

To the north, foliage is beginning to take on its autumn colors. The first fall pastels are visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike near Jacob’s Ladder. And maples near streams and ponds are very red.

Friday, my brother Donn (pictured above) and I paddled Shaw Pond in Becket and Otis MA where we spent our summers as kids, and saw some lovely scenery. It will be even brighter next weekend. Click here for a guide to outdoor activities in the Berkshires.

Discover the Last Green Valley next week

Take a virtual tour of The Last Green Valley, a 1,000-square-mile National Heritage Corridor on the borderlands of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island with chief ranger Bill Reid. He is coming to the Rhode Island Canoe/Kayak Association meeting Monday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. in Providence RI. Visit the valley’s rivers, streams and lakes in his presentation “Source to Sea through the Last Green Valley.” The meeting will be in the Jewish Community Center, 401 Elmgrove Avenue, on Providence’s East Side. Admittance is free.